With Great World of Sound, director Craig Zobel peels back the curtain on America’s American Idol-exemplified obsession with achieving stardom to reveal, well, exactly what one might expect: desperate, largely talentless individuals with unjustified faith in their imminent success, and sketchy entertainment industry folks eager to greedily exploit those fame-seekers for their every last cent. Itinerant Martin (Pat Healy) lands his latest job as a Charlotte-based record producer with Great World of Sound, an upstart company led by men whose Successories-style platitudes are abundant and whose business model is dubious. Martin is paired with gregarious Clarence (Kene Holiday) and sent out on the road to audition prospective acts, with the main—nay, only—goal being to convince people to fork over 30% of the costs it will take to record, market, and distribute their CDs (which amounts to roughly $3,000). It’s a huckster’s life, and one initially depicted by Zobel as presenting enticing monetary and status opportunities to small-time nobodies like Martin and Clarence, two endearing guys whose middle-of-the-road lives are stuck in neutral. Great World of Sound comes out of the gate strong, its consistent wittiness delivered with a self-deprecating shrug and smile, such as when Martin informs Clarence that one of his big ideas involves marketing Guinness to African-Americans via ads with “dark” actors and not light-skinned ones like Beyoncé. In terms of humor, however, the film proves frustratingly top-heavy, as its latter half largely discards levity in favor of solemnly detailing Martin’s disillusionment and disgust over realizing that he’s not a producer but just a salesman charged with swindling idealistic, financially-strapped people out of money. It’s a narrative route with an inevitable destination, and one hampered by too many similar scenes of hotel room-conducted audition sessions (milieus likely chosen for budgetary reasons) that merely restate the film’s obvious positions. Zobel aims to skewer both sides of our shortcut-to-celebrity culture, but in a reality TV-saturated era where everyone seems to feel entitled to 15 minutes, his endeavor is akin to shooting fish in a barrel.
- Magnolia Pictures
- 106 min
- Craig Zobel
- George Smith, Craig Zobel
- Pat Healy, Kene Holliday, John Baker, Robert Longstreet, Rebecca Mader, Mahari Conston, Willie J. Stratford Jr., Tricia Paoluccio
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